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Creating a Realistic Globe Animation in After Effects

In my After Effects Quick Tutorial, Animating a Path on a Map in After Effects, I used a realistic globe image for my map, but didn't explain how to do it. Here's how to create it in Adobe After Effects.

Step 1 - Locate a Realistic Earth Image

Now, any map image, realistic or not, will work for this tutorial, but I'm going to use an actual Earth photographic map for my version. A great royalty-free source for such maps is NASA's Visible Earth: Blue Marble series of cloudless composite Earth images:


I'm using this nice Next Generation high-res image here (shown scaled in this screenshot.)

You can use any image you like, as long as it's a flat map, not an image that's already been mapped to a globe. The important thing is that this image be, if possible, in a 2:1 aspect ratio - that is, it should be twice as wide as it is tall, which the one above is. You can fix that in Photoshop if your image isn't at that ratio, but you'll save some time if it is. Fortunately, most realistic map images are at 2:1.

Step 2 - Set Up Your Comp and Import Your Image

We're going to start with a standard 720p 10-second comp (Composition > New Composition...), which we'll call Spinning Earth:

Next, import your map image and add it to the composition. It's probably too large for the comp, but that's OK. 

Step 3 - Apply CC Sphere

Next, with the layer selected, choose Effect > Perspective > CC Sphere, and voila! An instant globe, with sunlight and shading:

CC Sphere is designed to do just that - make globes, although you can use if for other things, of course. Just be aware that it works best when your images are at a 2:1 aspect ratio, which is why I've been emphasizing that.

Step 4 - Animate the Globe

Our final step is a simple one - animate the Earth spinning in space. First, in CC Sphere's Effects Controls, scale up the Radius property if necessary to get the globe to fill the comp:

Next, expose the Rotation properties in the Effect Controls and enable keyframing for Rotation Y at Frame 0 in your timeline:

Then move ahead to the end of your timeline, to 9:29, and set a keyframe for one full Y rotation (use the Full Rotations property - the one with the X - not the Degrees property, so you have exactly one full rotation):

Step 5 - Conclusion

Render this out, and this is what you'll get, much like what you'd see from space (although without all the space junk):

And it's as simple as that. Try varying the Light and Shading properties in the CC Sphere Effect Controls for different lighting effects. And, as always, experiment and have fun with Adobe After Effects!

Richard Lainhart

Richard Lainhart | Articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films have been shown in festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. He has authored over a dozen technical manuals for music and video hardware and software, served as Contributing Editor for Interactivity and 3D Design Magazines, and contributed to books on digital media production published by IDG, Peachpit Press, McGraw Hill, and Miller Freeman Books. Previously an Adobe Certified Expert in After Effects and Premiere, a demo artist for Adobe Systems, and co-founder of the official New York City After Effects User Group, he was, from 2000-2009, Technical Director for Total Training Productions, an innovative digital media training company based in New York and California.


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